The Biblical response to a man having more than one wife

Published 8:29 am Friday, March 13, 2020

It has been asked, “Biblically speaking, can a man have more than one wife?”
I appreciate the question and it is one in which we must allow the Word of God to speak to give us the answer. We learn from the Bible that a bishop/elder should be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). This means that if a man has two wives, he couldn’t be a bishop, but it doesn’t say he cannot have two. What it does imply is that some men had more than one and therefore could not be a bishop/elder. According to the scriptures, there are two reasons given which allow a man to remarry. In our study of God’s Word, the Bible gives two means of achieving the right to remarry; the first is death of the spouse and the second is the infidelity of the spouse, and neither of these prevents one from holding this office (bishop/elder). It is obvious from the sacred texts that God’s original plan was for man to have one wife, but that doesn’t mean it is a sin to have another if the pre-requisites of death or infidelity have occurred in the marriage.
In Matthew 19:4-6-KJV, our Lord stated the following regarding the marriage relationship:
“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
When a man chooses a woman to be his wife, she becomes the complement of himself; that which is needed to make the complete man, so the two are one. It takes both to make one being as originally created (Genesis 2:20-25).
In God’s sight. this union of the man and his wife is enduring (Matthew 19:6); there are only two Biblical exceptions (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:1-3). It is very interesting that this union between a man and his wife illustrates the “oneness” of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:30-33). As a man and his wife become one flesh, Christians become “one” with Christ when they are baptized into His body, the church (Romans 12:5; Gal. 3:27-28; Ephesians 1:22-23).
Marriage between male and female is therefore similar in nature to the marriage between Christ and His church. As the two entities become “one flesh” (Matthew 19:5), so also Christ and the members of His body, the church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; Ephesians 1:22-23) become “one” in a spiritual sense (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 5:30-32).
The answer to the original question, “Can a man Biblically have more than one wife,” is obviously “No.” Thus, a man seeking the work of an elder (bishop) cannot have more than one wife. Having more than one wife would constitute a sin (1 John 3:4).
(Tony Hoss is minister of the Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)

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